(Galway win 3-2 on Penalties)
By Brían Mangan
In front of a huge crowd of over 7,000 supporters, old enemies Galway and Mayo renewed acquaintances today in a cold but dry MacHale Park in a full blooded contest which was eventually shaded by the Tribesmen after a Penalty Shootout. There was fantastic drama from the throw in with both teams fielding strong line ups and showing massively encouraging signs ahead of the start of the Allianz League in two weeks time. New manager Paraic Joyce will be thrilled that his Galway outfit will first travel to Hyde Park to take on the Rossies in the FBD Final, who themselves had a comprehensive win over Leitrim in Carrick on Shannon this afternoon. It will be the sixth year in a row the two counties have contested the preseason decider.
Galway burst out of the blocks, spearheaded by new skipper for 2020 Shane Walsh and they led by 0-4 to 0-1 after ten minutes with all the full forward line of Walsh, Varley and Conroy on target with well worked scores. Galway played some lovely stuff in these opening exchanges as they looked to kick at every opportunity, with the welcome return of Conroy to a starting berth instrumental in this. Mayo had new wing forwards Jordan Flynn and Brian Walsh in action and they both caught the eye, chipping in with two scores each and working back and tackling very effectively throughout. Kevin McLoughlin also proved a handful for Colin Murray and they had a good battle in the first 35, with McLoughlin slightly shading it and landing two quality scores. The biggest cheer of the day came in the 26th minute when Tom Parsons slammed over a fine point from the wing off the run to give his team a 0-7 to 0-5 lead, Mayo supporters glad to have their midfielder back in a starting jersey after his injury ordeal. The action was frenetic in the second quarter as both sides played with a focus on attacking, with the end to end nature of the football providing a brilliant spectacle for the huge crowd, even in the second week of January. Michael Daly swung over a lovely point over his shoulder from the right wing in the 30th minute to equalise the game before Conor Loftus got the final score of the half in injury time from a free to give Mayo a 0-9 to 0-8 advantage at the break having played with the wind.
Again Galway started brighter in the second half with their dangerous inside line linking for three slick scores to lead 0-11 0-9 after 3 minutes. The game was then held up for 11 minutes for a bad looking injury to towering midfielder Fiontan O’Curraoin who left the field in a motorised stretcher, and hopefully the injury isn’t a serious one. Mayo trailed by 3 when Mikey Boyle landed a fine score for Galway in the 20th minute, but this sparked the home side into life and led by Brian Reape and substitute Fergal Boland up front and driven on by Mikey Murray at midfield, they scored 1-6 on the trot to lead by 6 with 35 minutes on the clock. The goal was a class piece of improvisation from Kevin McLoughlin in the 26th minute, who punched first time to the net to lob Gleeson in the Galway goals. There was 12 minutes added time indicated for by the sideline official and Galway began to eat into the lead in this time, their comeback sparked by a goal from the excellent Adrian Varley who reacted quickest to a rebound from a Hennelly save from Johnny Duane in the 40th minute. Shane Walsh then landed his 9th and tenth points of the game to reduce the gap to one, before substitute Liam Costello equalised the match in the 49th minute of the half after being tee-ed up by Damien Comer. The Tribesmen took the shootout 3-2, with Conor Gleeson saving efforts from Fergal Boland and Gary Boylan and Brian Walsh crashing his effort off the bar. Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and Tom Flynn kept their nerve to convert their shots for Paraic Joyce’s men. This brought an end to a massively entertaining contest that was well refereed by Liam Devanney which whets the appetite for meetings between the two teams further on down the track.
Mayo: R Hennelly, J Stretton, J McCormack, B Harrison, P O’Hora, M Plunkett, P Durcan, T Parsons (0-1), M Murray, B Walsh (0-3), C Loftus (0-2fs), J Flynn (0-2), K McLoughlin (1-2), B Reape (0-5, 0-1f), D O’Connor, SUBS: F Boland (0-1), C Boyle, G Boylan, L Irwin, D Kenny
Galway: C Gleeson, C Murray, G O’Donnell, J Heaney, E Branigan, J Daly, C McDaid, T Flynn, F Ó Curraoin, P Kelly, M Daly (0-1), M Boyle (0-1), A Varley (1-3), S Walsh (0-10, 0-6fs), P Conroy (0-1) SUBS J Duane, M Barrett, L Costello (0-1), D Comer, S Kelly